AEW: Fight Forever Review – Not quite Dynamite

Reviewed June 28, 2023 on PS5


Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


June 29, 2023


THQ Nordic


YUKE'S Co., Ltd.

All Elite Wrestling (AEW) officially launched in January 2019, offering an alternative top-tier wrestling promotion to the dominant WWE. This alternative put WWE on their toes, forcing them to extend contracts of their current roster and pushing them to be competitive, ideally to make better programming and better decisions with their wrestlers and storylines. AEW, now coming up to five years since its official inception, is hoping to disrupt in the same way with its first video game, AEW: Fight Forever. While the idea of tapping into nostalgia and focusing on fun first is a smart decision, unfortunately, the lack of polish and seemingly lack of budget holds the title back, ensuring that the WWE 2K games will remain on top of the mountain for the foreseeable future.

It’s hard not to compare AEW: Fight Forever with WWE 2K23, which launched in March, much like it’s difficult not to compare AEW to WWE more broadly. They want to offer a more arcade-like option to the more “serious” presentation of the WWE 2K series, and on a very basic level, they succeed in this. The style of gameplay from loved wrestling game developer Yukes will be instantly familiar to anybody who has played No Mercy, Wrestlemania 2000, or even further back to WCW vs. nWo Revenge.

You have a bar beneath your character that represents your momentum; hitting moves or taunting increases this so that it builds up enough to activate a Signature move, and then a Finisher. If you take too much damage, you’ll be in “danger” and more likely to be pinned for the three-count. Strikes are easy to combo, and you’ll have weak and strong grappling moves at your disposal. The arcade-style quickly proves to be troublesome in terms of balance, though. You can spam moves, and even spam Signature moves once you build up your momentum, resulting in some one-sided matches. In doing this, most matches I took part in could be won in 1-2 minutes. Countering seems very hit-and-miss as well; even after many hours spent with the game, I found the timing to be a crapshoot and mostly didn’t bother with it once I figured out how to win matches easily by simply focusing on offense.

“This lack of high stakes drama means that the game is missing the core element of what makes wrestling special…”

Moves look good and animations are slick as you’d expect from a team that has worked on wrestling games for decades now; particularly Signature and Finishing moves are well reflected in the ring, with a quick replay adding to their overall effect. In small bursts, AEW: Fight Forever looks and feels very satisfying, but there’s a clunkiness to wrestler movement and a generally slow pace to the gameplay that often left me frustrated rather than inspired.

Despite their experience in the genre, Yukes haven’t done a good job of resolving the problem with tag team matches, where they can drag on as the AI always manages to interrupt your pin attempt almost flawlessly (while your partner is useless at playing defense). That said, once I figured out that I could spam my Signature moves again and then quickly knock their tag partner off the apron before pinning, again, these matches ended up being resolved in just a couple of minutes without much trouble at all.

It’s disappointing that there isn’t any way of changing the momentum back in your favour in these scenarios; the AI isn’t great at putting up a fight, and as being pinned just results in button mashing, there is no drama in whether or not you’re able to kick out (if you’re in “Danger”, you’re going to be looking up at the lights for the 1-2-3). This lack of high-stakes drama means that the game is missing the core element of what makes wrestling special, devolving into a button-mashy mess rather than anything that resembles the real-life product.

This does allow for some fun to be had with friends in local multiplayer, for sure, despite a lack of match types. Weapons are abundant, and there is a lot of silly opportunity for things like skateboards or even explosive gas canisters to cause havoc in matches, including over-the-top blood splatter. One match type in particular, the Explosive Barbed Wire Death Match, has all the ring ropes replaced by barbed wire, with explosions triggering whenever you get too close to them. After a couple of minutes, the whole ring explodes, with the wrestler closest to the ropes taking damage. It’s a bit silly for sure, and having “explosions” resulting in your wrestler being knocked down for a few seconds is funny, but at least it looks more effective than the real-life version that failed epically and was more of a fizzle than a boom.

Weapons and wild arcade action might be enough for a game night with pals, but the presentation lets down the rest of the experience in such a way that it’s hard to take very seriously. Wrestlers look like action figures and look lifeless when selecting them to play as; visually, it’s just not up to par, looking generations behind. Clipping issues abound, and there are bugs aplenty, with wrestlers floating above the ring and laughably bad AI. Entrances only go for around 5-10 seconds at most, without the full theme, and in many cases the wrestler’s real music is replaced by something generic, indicating they didn’t want to pay for the licensed tracks. There’s also zero commentary during matches; after one bout, the commentator in the following victory screen said “What a match, I was so glad I was hear to call it!” which felt weird after minutes of silence.

When the commentators do speak in menus or tutorials, they sound phoned in. Jim Ross in particular brings zero life to his performance which, to be fair, is about as much enthusiasm as he brings to the weekly product, a far cry from the good ol’ JR of old. Crowds chant wrestler names at weird times that don’t make sense, and the whole thing feels painfully low-budget, which is odd considering the amount of money the Khan family spent to get AEW up and running in the first place. I’d recommend they invest a bit more time and money in their video game franchise if it’s to continue beyond this. A hugely important part of the majesty of wrestling is the presentation and showmanship, and it’s completely disregarded here where it counts most.

Then there’s the included roster, which feels weird and underbaked. There are 51 wrestlers to choose from, between both men and women, which isn’t that many considering the depth and breadth the real-life roster includes. There are some weird omissions of talent that have been with the company since day one like Private Party, and key additions from last year like Saraya, Toni Storm, and more are not included, or others like Keith Lee and FTR relegated to DLC “in the future”. Oddly, the roster still has Cody Rhodes featured despite him leaving the company in February 2022 and now being a main eventer in the opposition. While Cody was prominent and important in setting up AEW, space could have been made for others instead.

All of these flaws would be a little more forgivable if there was a story mode worth playing, but it too sadly misses the mark. Called “Road to Elite”, it focuses on the creation of AEW, with you joining the roster to make a name for yourself, whether that’s using a created wrestler or somebody from the existing roster. You’ll have matches of course, but in between key matches you have four “turns” to be used on either Workout (earning skill points), Dining (to recover lost energy), or Go Out (to boost motivation or earn skill points).

It all feels very basic; mini-games include grabbing falling poker chips of varying values while avoiding bombs, a simple rhythm game matching button presses, or throwing propane tanks into the ring to earn points. They’re not fun. Dining always has an awkward conversation with a waitress for some reason, along with a random food explanation of the delicacy the town you’re visiting is known for. There’s also sightseeing, press conferences, and other activities which all have very stilted dialogue. Occasionally, you’ll encounter another wrestler to take a selfie with for some reason. It just doesn’t make sense, and not in a wacky entertaining way.

I found myself skipping these turns in the career just to get through to the next match, or at least skipping through the dialogue just to get whatever reward I needed from it to progress. On top of that, the storylines themselves are low stakes, resolving quickly. In one, I was jumped by the Death Triangle trio for reasons unknown, which led to a PPV match against their leader. Due to interference from the rest of the faction, I lost – and that was it. No redemption, no revenge. Onto the next story.

“The entire story mode seems to be an excuse for AEW to revel in their own perceived sense of importance.”

The entire story mode seems to be an excuse for AEW to revel in their own perceived sense of importance. It feels self-masturbatory and made for fans of AEW, and nobody else. Key moments in AEW’s short history like CM Punk’s debut or the press conference where they announced AEW’s existence are treated with the same love and reverie as historic WWE moments like Rock vs Hogan at Wrestlemania X8 or Stone Cold Steve Austin winning King of the Ring. Even simple moments (some of which awkwardly reminded me of the crowdless lockdown era of wrestling) are shown as if they’re big deals, with each story beat seemingly designed to lead you through heel turns, faction creations, or important title changes in the real life product instead of giving you any sense of ownership or decision-making with how your wrestler responds. It’s a shame they focused so much on hitting these key beats instead of just building a career mode that was interesting in and of itself. To put it bluntly, AEW hasn’t earned this level of majesty and unsubtle fairytale reminiscing since its inception four years ago.

Had AEW: Fight Forever launched directly after the disastrous WWE 2K20, they might have had a chance of winning over some supporters. But if you’re a wrestling fan comparing Fight Forever with WWE 2K23 that are the same full price, it’s practically impossible to recommend this game, even if you prefer AEW’s TV product over what’s on offer from WWE. At the end of the day, 13-year-old Luke would have enjoyed playing this one on his Nintendo 64 back in the year 2000, but we’re in 2023 now, I’m an old man, and when compared with games of today’s standard, it falls painfully flat.




  • Arcade style can be fun with friends
  • Lots of AEW "history" that fans will appreciate


  • Gameplay is lacking depth and repetitive
  • Roster is small and lacking licensed music and entrances
  • Story mode is an absolute slog
  • Not polished and feels low budget

AEW had the right idea in wanting to focus on the nostalgia of the wrestling games we played when we were kids, but at the end of the day, the seemingly low budget and lack of polish is something that should be left in the past. AEW: Fight Forever has some fine ideas and its execution of moment-to-moment gameplay and animations isn’t terrible, but matches can be won with minimal effort or drama, presentation is missing key things that make wrestling special, and the story mode is repetitive, boring and self-masturbatory. Fight forever? In this game? No, thank you.